Telangana might prove to be a one-sided battle with the domineering figure of K Chandrashekar Rao on one side and a demoralised and divided opposition on the other. With 17 parliamentary seats in Telangana, KCR hopes to be kingmaker in the centre, if not the king himself. He is never low on ambition.
KCR during the 2018 assembly polls stole a quick march with his 88 seats in an assembly strength of 119. The Congress won 19 seats, TDP won two and the BJP won a single seat. Asaduddin Owaisi’s All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM), which nowadays has extremely friendly contests with the TRS won seven seats. Not content with his emphatic victory, TRS has made sure that ten more Congress MLAs cross over to the TRS.
KCR won the 2018 assembly polls in the backdrop of a collapse of the TDP in Telangana and a virtual elimination of the Jagan’s YSRCP in the state. Populist welfare schemes targeting farmers and youth, Telangana pride and the need to maintain a separate Telangana identity in the face of a TDP-Congress alliance in the state, led to a landslide victory for the TRS, in terms of seats. In percentage terms too, the lead for TRS looks unassailable for the moment. In the 2018 assembly polls, TRS got around 47 per cent of the vote while the Congress received just around 28.5 per cent. Even with the votes of its allies the TDP and CPI it adds up to another four per cent more. The BJP came a poor third with around seven per cent vote.
The challenge for the opposition is to regain some face, and show that it still can put up a spirited fight.
A rattled Congress is now putting its best foot forward marshalling all its senior leaders to fight the parliament polls. While Uttam Kumar Reddy, state Cong chief is contesting from Nalgonda, former Union Minister Renuka Chowdhury is in the contest from Khammam, senior leader Revanth Reddy is contesting from Malkajgiri and senior Congress leader Komatireddy Venkatareddy is contesting from Bhuvanagiri. While both Revanth Reddy and Komatireddy had lost the recent assembly elections with thin margins, they are in the contest as a morale booster for the Congress cadres. Uttam Reddy is already an MLA but is contesting to show that the Congress is leaving no stone unturned to make an impact.
Senior TRS leader Konda Vishweshwar Reddy who had joined the Congress during the assembly polls is now contesting on a Congress ticket from Chevella while others of note include Ponnam Prabhakar from Karimnagar and Anjan Kumar Yadav from Secunderabad. Madhu Yaskhi Goud from Nizamabad is contesting against Kalvakuntla Kavitha, KCR’s daughter.
These are all doughty fighters, no doubt, but the 2018 assembly election has changed the electoral landscape of Telangana. There was a KCR wave and there are no signs that it is receding. In 2014, the Congress had won two parliament seats and it is finding it tough to stay relevant.
The BJP too was shocked by the 2018 assembly results as it saw its seats decline from five to one. The BJP would be fighting to retain its traditional seat of Secunderabad, apart from showing its influence in seats like Nizamabad where D Arvind, son of senior TRS leader D Srinivas is contesting on a BJP ticket. D Srinivas was also a former president of the Andhra Pradesh Congress party.
While most of the leaders are making a beeline to the TRS, Ms DK Aruna, a senior Congress leader and from one of the established political families in Mahbubnagar district, has joined the BJP and is contesting from Mahbubnagar seat. It is an interesting contest to watch. If she is able to make a mark, then for those fleeing Congress unable to withstand the pressures from the TRS, BJP might become a safe haven. There appears to be some ‘goodwill for Modi’ in urban areas of Telangana, but the BJP is not strong enough to capitalise on the same.
KCR is his usual confident self and looks to be aiming high – for 16 seats – leaving one to its ally, the MIM.
The opposition in Telangana; Congress and BJP are fighting for breathing space. Nothing more.